Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are now the leading cause of death in England and Wales.
This replaces ischaemic heart disease as the leading cause of death and is related to an ageing population as well as better dementia diagnosis rates.
In 2015, 61,686 people died of dementia or Alzheimer’s, amounting to 11.6% of all deaths, while the age-standardised mortality rate for dementia and Alzheimer’s has more than doubled over the last five years for both males and females.
The majority of these deaths were among females while ischaemic heart disease remains the leading cause of death amongst men, however the age-standardised mortality rate continues to fall.
Dementia shortens life expectancy, but it is very difficult to know how long someone with dementia will live for. Someone with late-stage dementia, without another life-limiting illness, will often deteriorate slowly over many months. They gradually become more frail, have more frequent falls or infections, become less mobile, sleep more, and eat and talk less, according to Alzheimer’s Society.
A person with later-stage dementia may have symptoms that suggest that they are close to death, but actually live with these symptoms for many months. This uncertainty makes planning for the end of someone’s life difficult.
Martina Kane of Alzheimer’s Society called the news:“a stark reminder that dementia remains a growing concern across the country”.
“While there remains no cure for the condition, everyone who develops it will sadly still have the disease when they die. It is therefore essential that people have access to the right support and services to help them live well with dementia and that research into better care, treatments and eventually a cure remain high on the agenda,” she said.